Tour de France news round-up

Contador scare; Armstrong survives another spill

Injury scare for Contador after crash

Alberto Contador survived the crash carnage of the Tour de France second stage Monday but was still complaining of injuries that could seriously hamper his ride in the treacherous third stage.

Contador, the reigning yellow jersey champion and the big race favourite this year, Lance Armstrong and last year's runner-up Andy Schleck all came close to seeing their campaigns end prematurely in the Belgian Ardennes.

And it emerged that spilled fuel from a motorcycle that had crashed in front of them seemed to be the culprit.

A team statement from Contador's Astana team said: "Alberto was one of the many riders who suffered a fall on the (descent of the) Stockeu climb on a road that had turned into a skating rink due to rain and, apparently, the loss of fuel of a motorcycle which had fallen minutes before the riders passed."

Contador said after leaving the doping control: "It was really crazy."

His mountain stage helpers Daniel Navarro and Benjamin Noval managed to avoid the fall, although Kazakh teammate Alexandre Vinokourov crashed "without any significant injuries", the statement added.

Astana said Contador picked up knocks and grazing on his right hip, knee and elbow although "the first impression of the team doctors, and also the rider is that tomorrow he will start without further complications".

Contador added: "On this road it was impossible not to fall. I fell on a straight part at about 60 km/h and when I thought about what could have happened - I saw that at every turn there were people on the ground - it was impossible to continue without falling."

Numerous spills also marred the first stage on Sunday but the peloton is facing more carnage in the third stage Tuesday which feature seven treacherous cobblestone sectors.

Contador knows he is in for a tough day.

"It's the worst day because tomorrow is a tough day in cobblestones, they hit you all over, but I want to be optimistic. We will try to recover and get ice (on the injuries) soon."

Crash victims Andy Schleck and his brother Frank were left facing losing valuable time to their rivals, and had to chase hard to catch up with the rest of the race.

Contador said that he was the one who decided to stop to wait for the Schlecks -- a move which is one of many parts of road racing's etiquette.

"As soon as I heard that Andy was behind I ordered my team mates to stop. As I wished he would for me."

Armstrong survives spill before peloton protest

Lance Armstrong's white and yellow bike stands out from the rest of the super-slick red and grey Trek machines used by his RadioShack team. But on Monday the seven-time Tour de France champion had trouble finding his bike after being caught up in the numerous, and almost inexplicable, crashes that marred the second stage of the race in the hilly Belgian Ardennes.

As Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel left the last remaining member of an earlier eight-man breakaway in his wake to go on and forge a deserved stage win, all hell broke loose behind him.

Armstrong, yellow jersey contender Andy Schleck of Luxembourg and his brother Frank were among dozens of riders caught up in crashes that seemed to decimate the chasing peloton.

The Schlecks were left to dig deep in a long chase to the yellow jersey peloton being led by their Saxo Bank teammate and race leader Fabian Cancellara, who upon hearing the news negotiated a pact of non-aggression. The big Swiss rider's decision meant he lost the yellow jersey, but he later claimed his move was to protect the survival chances of the race's yellow jersey contenders.

"It's better to be fair than to be selfish," said Cancellara, who has now dropped to second overall at 2min 57sec behind Quick Step's Chavanel.

Most riders and team managers were at a loss to explain why so many crashed on a route which has been part of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic for over 100 years come rain, wind or snow.

Armstrong had his own version after picking up some nasty road rash on his hip and elbow.

"(It was as if) there was something on the road, we just couldn't stand on our bikes," he said. "As we got up and started to keep going again, we just kept passing guys all the way down, so it's a bit surreal.

"You know in the rain these guys are very good downhill, I'm not one of them. But even the good ones, with something like that, no chance, absolutely no chance.

"I knew I was fine. My first thought was, 'where is my bike?'. I tried to find my bike."

Armstrong's teammate Chris Horner was perhaps the most outspoken rider of the day saying, bizarrely, that the stage should not have been included on the race and that the end-of-stage truce was all the organisers deserved.

"They put on a dangerous stage and so when they put it on like that that's the results they'll get," said Horner.

"They got all their drama on the descent and they lost it all at the finish and they got what they deserved. There's no place in the Tour de France for a stage like this."

Armstrong, however, seemed to side with the organisers.

"These hills around here and the Ardennes are legendary, it's part of cycling. Liege-Bastogne-Liege has been around for a hundred years and they do that on the snow.

"We can't say that. That's bad luck. For whatever reason the road was slippery and it's by no means any fault of the organisers. It's just bad luck."

Numerous spills also marred the first stage on Sunday but the peloton is facing more carnage in the third stage Tuesday which feature seven treacherous cobblestone sectors.

© AFP 2010

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